When we’re with our kids all the time as homeschooling parents, sometimes the lines blur. It’s a huge part of why we homeschool, this blending of “school” and “home”. But when our kids are having issues and struggling with their emotions, this blended life can make it a bit harder to figure out what’s going on. And it can be difficult then to determine if the issue our children are struggling with is related to our parenting — or is a homeschool problem?
Why does it matter?
When we can’t tell what’s a parenting issue and what’s a homeschooling problem — especially if you’re new to homeschooling — it’s easy to blame all negative reactions from our kids on homeschooling. “Just put them in school,” the experts will tell us. “They wouldn’t have that issue, if they were in school,” our friends say. “Public school will straighten them out,” our relatives murmur.
But is that true?
Not all the reasons our kids may be having problems are related to school. Sometimes it’s just the normal development of children as they grow — testing boundaries and exploring new found skills. Sometimes it’s because there’s a deeper issue to address as parents. And sometimes it is homeschooling.
Too often, blaming everything on homeschooling is an easy shortcut that doesn’t fix the root cause. And sending kids to public school — especially for parenting issues — will only exacerbate the problem.
How do we tell the difference?
What kinds of issues are things best supported by good parenting? Issues related to values, attitude and relationships are parenting issues.
Homeschooling issues are those problems related to a child’s academics, lessons, and the topics they are learning about.
So when your child has an issue, your first step is to figure out what area is causing the problem.
Much like doctors use symptoms to develop diagnoses, we have to use our child’s behaviours to pinpoint the problems. And while doctors can run tests, parents have to be more observant and look for triggers.
Common behavioural issues
One of the most common issues parents might have with their kids is the struggle to get them to listen and then do what they’ve been asked.
But kids not listening is just a symptom.
First, rule out a physical or mental cause. Are they coming down with illness? Is there an undiagnosed mental health issue or learning disability? Is the symptom actually not really a problem, but developmentally appropriate — and your expectations aren’t?
If you’ve determined your child is healthy, physically and mentally, and they are capable of the standards you’ve set, then it’s time to look for the cause.
A child not listening might be an attitude issue — a lack of respect. It could be a relationship issues — not feeling listened to themselves. It might be an academics issue — the material is more challenging then they are ready for. Or maybe it’s a planning problem — they’re overwhelmed by the schedule.
What’s the trigger?
If your child isn’t listening during your table time, but generally otherwise they do their chores and get along with siblings, it might be a homeschool problem. Look at the material you’re using — is it too challenging? Too easy? Are they bored with it? Check your topics too. Maybe there’s a topic you’re moving too fast on, and your child would actually like to explore further. Or maybe they’re ready to move on. Or perhaps they’re struggling with relevance? And don’t forget to look at your calendar. Did you leave enough time in your day to get all you wanted done, or are you hurrying your child constantly to finish up and move on? Or maybe they were really proud of a project, that you dismissed without feedback?
Those are homeschooling issues, and can easily be fixed with a little tweaking of your homeschool.
However, if your child isn’t listening in general — it’s not limited to homeschool, but they aren’t paying attention to their chores, they’re picking fights with siblings, and there’s an element of disrespect in how they speak to other members of the family — it’s probably a parenting issue.
And sending them to public school isn’t going to fix that.
Another common behavioural issue is when kids get careless. They leave stuff out, their tasks are half done, and they don’t seem motivated to do anything.
Your child’s seeming laziness is just a symptom.
Again, first check for physical and mental wellness. The seeming laziness might be a sign of fatigue or impending developmental growth. Maybe they just seriously need more sleep. Even preteens can do with naps sometimes!
Second, check that your expectations of their tasks are developmentally appropriate. Remember that not every child develops at the same pace, so while your 10 yr old might be capable of keeping their room tidy independently, and has done so for years now — your 6 yr old might not be capable yet. And holding them to the standard of the older sibling may be the cause of your frustration.
But if they are physically and mentally capable of more, then it’s time to look for the cause.
Carelessness and lack of responsibility can be an attitude issue. It’s a lack of respect for themselves and others, and a lack of gratitude for what they have. It could be because of a relationship breakdown — they aren’t going to be careful of other people’s things, because they’re hurt and angry at those people. It could be a lesson issue in your homeschool — they’re not getting feedback that encourages them to do their best, or maybe a lack of recognition of their effort.
What’s the trigger?
A child who forgets their toys, shoes, or snacks all around themselves, and is only putting in half-effort into their chores is probably having a issue that is best solved by checking your parenting. They may need some extra training and supervision, to help develop an attitude of appreciation for their things, or to correct a lack of work ethic.
If the carelessness is only with other people’s things, it is probably also a parenting issue, related to the child’s relationships. If they’re dawdling continually, procrastinating on tasks you’ve given them, it might be a values issue, where they just aren’t valuing their own (or other’s) time.
But if the carelessness is only in their schoolwork — messy handwriting when you know they can do better, poorly answered questions, careless mistakes because they didn’t take the time to read or they rushed through it — check your homeschooling. Maybe they need a break? Maybe the work is too hard — or too easy. Perhaps they aren’t quite understanding the concepts needed to complete the assignments. Maybe they need a different method of teaching or learning?
If you know why they’re having problems, you can offer the right support.
Whether your child is struggling with a homeschool issue or a parenting issue, knowing the cause makes the solution easy.
So before you blame the homeschooling and rush to re-enroll, work through the problems. Look for the triggers, and observe your child’s behaviours. Sometimes, the solution is a tweak to your homeschool. Sometimes it’s a change in your parenting.
Rarely is the solution going to be to send the kids back to school.